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First case of fast-spreading COVID-19 mutation reported in Taiwan

First case of fast-spreading COVID-19 mutation reported in Taiwan
Taiwan confirmed its first case of the mutated form of the novel coronavirus in a passenger who flew from Britain on Sunday. File Photo by David Chang/EPA-EFE

Dec. 30 (UPI) -- The highly contagious British variant of the novel coronavirus has entered Taiwan, prompting the local government to bar all foreigners without special permits from entering the country beginning Jan. 1.

Taiwan's Health Minister Chen Shih-chung said Wednesday that the new mutated form of the virus was found in Case No. 792 in the island nation -- a Taiwanese teen who flew in from London on Sunday, Taiwan News and local media reported.

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The passenger submitted a negative test result taken within three days before boarding the China Airlines flight, but showed fever symptoms after arriving Sunday, according to the report.

The teen's temperature was also taken before boarding. The passenger told authorities in Taiwan he did not take fever-reducing drugs, according to Taipei Times.

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The passenger tested positive Monday. According to Chen, the genome of a sample taken from the patient matched a mutation identified in Britain.

Taiwan has suspended all flights to Britain, effective Jan. 1. New travel restrictions ban all foreigners without residence permits, with exceptions being made for foreign diplomats, foreign family members of Taiwanese citizens and other people with "special entry permits," Taiwan News reported.

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Local media previously linked foreign passport holders to the recent uptick in cases in the country, which has been hailed a COVID-19 success story for its low caseload and virus response.

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By late Wednesday, local time, Taipei reported two new cases, bringing the total to 797 since the start of the pandemic.

In neighboring China, health authorities are urging citizens to avoid travel during the Lunar New Year, from Feb. 11 to 17.

China's National Health Commission said workers should avoid traveling across the country to see family during the holiday. The state agency also urged local governments to enforce the policy on its online site Tuesday.

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